Sunday, July 29, 2007

Why I Do not Raise Chickens -- jcarolek

When I was 15 I acquired a few newly hatched baby chicks from my Biology teacher. It was the end of the school year and the studies which involved our observing the various stages of egg-to-birth of the chicken had come to an end. However, the wee little chicks had just arrived on the scene.

My neighbor and good friend Billy also acquired some of the chicks, though his also included a couple of ducklings and goslings. Our teacher instructed us in the make-shift incubators we should build and sent us on our merry way.

Once home, we built the cardboard and tinfoil structures, placed our little peeps into the boxes and switched on the light bulbs for warmth. Then we were off to Foxhill Pond to play Huckleberry Finn (well, I was Huckleberry Finness). We fooled around with the raft we had constructed for a while and then decided we wanted to go back home and check on the chicks.

We were horrified to find our new wards all apparently overwhelmed by the heat, lying as if dead in their boxes. Of my five, two were black and the others were yellow. Not having a clue what to do in this situation, I grabbed each chick, dipped his beak in water and held him in front of the fan. The three yellow chicks revived. The little black ones did not.

I got a little smarter after that, exchanging the 100 watt light bulb for much lower wattage model, and over the summer I raised my chicks to full maturity. One by one, the chicks, now chickens, met some demise. Either an animal or illness took two of my chickens before summer’s end. But the one who survived was my sidekick for several months. I called him Turkey, because he had one lame leg and looked funny hopping around.

Turkey was quite a help to me during those hot days in August, that summer. My father forbid us from buying from the ice cream man, but there were no rules regarding sitting with a lame chicken at the end of the driveway when one had a good idea the ice cream man was soon to be in vicinity.

Apparently, this ice cream man thought the goofy girl with the lame chicken was a sufficiently pitiful sight to stop and chat (and give a free ice cream). So, Turkey was my best friend during the dog days of summer that year.

Over the Columbus Day weekend in October, I went backpacking/camping with some friends. I left Turkey in the care of my siblings with feeding and basic care instructions. I have no idea what happened, but Turkey passed away whilst I was camping and hiking those four days.

I decided then and there that raising chickens was probably best left to the professionals, and that I should focus on something I understood better. I had failed miserably in my well-intentioned adoption efforts and decided that no other chickens should have to be subjected to such a fate.

My friend, Billy, who had NOT fried his ducklings and goslings the first day, and who might have had more of a “fowl” touch than I, successfully raised his birds to become big, fat, sassy things, which ate ALL the lettuce and such in his father’s garden….so Billy was informed that his birds had to go. We carried the birds to Foxhill Pond and set them free in their new home. Billy went on to become a military man, a member of the Golden Knights. I went on to become a wife, mother, computer programmer…but neither of us went on to become chicken farmers….I think we made good choices. I know the chickens are happy with my choice, at least.

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